|Lucky Chhetri (EWN ())|
Lucky Chhetri: trailblazer, trekker,
women's rights advocate, Ashoka Fellow, organic gardener, sister, daughter, friend.
Lucky Chhetri, along with her two sisters, Dicky and Nicky, runs the 3 Sisters
Adventure Trekking company, as well as the social organization, Empowering
Women of Nepal, EWN. Having spent most of her childhood in bed, she was brought
up to think she was frail and weak, so when an opportunity came in 1990 to
join the Basic Women Mountaineering Training at the Himalayan Mountain
Institute in Darjeeling, she jumped at the chance. Lucky told me, "The training
was physically very challenging for me. Having no sports background, this was
one of the hardest challenges I did in my life. However, little did I realize
that this was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Until this, I had
always underestimated my strengths and capabilities because I never had the
opportunity or support to do such a thing before. After my mountaineering
training I was transformed and I was busy sharing my experiences with my family
and friends."Lucky then began empowering the
women of Nepal almost 20 years ago when she realized there was a great need for
women trekking guides. Raised in India by Nepalese parents, Lucky and her
sisters moved to Nepal after completing their educations. She told me, "We all
were employed in different organizations but by the early 1990's, we decided to
run a guest house in Pokhara, Nepal. While operating the guest house we met
many western women who were traveling and trekking in the Himalayas by
themselves and/or with male staff. Some of the female clients expressed that
they had had bad experiences with their male guides. Hearing their stories, we
felt very strongly about stopping such incidents. Thus, we decided to explore
opportunities and to see for ourselves if this occupation was fit for Nepalese
Lucky went on, "Secondly, during an early visit to western Nepal, I had seen many women weeping
in the airport, having to leave their families for employment in India. I also
noticed that rural women's lives were tough, miserable and destitute. I was
astonished to see so many women living this kind of life and that visit stayed
in my mind and I wished to help them someday."
|The Three Sisters (Empowering Women of Nepal ())|
Lucky was inspired to fill the void
of women trekking guides with a new program that not only trained young local
women to become guides but helped them to step beyond the patriarchal system of
Nepalese society, to empower them.
Lucky told me, "After establishing
3 Sisters, we realized that in order to provide professional female trekking
guides, we would need to have a safe space for our female trainees and offer
specialized training. So in 1999 we created Empowering Women of Nepal, EWN, to empower and
improve the lives of disadvantaged Nepali women through adventure tourism. EWN
provides practical vocational training courses (all free of cost) designed to
extend educational, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to
marginalized women, as well as six months of food and accommodation." Lucky is
proud of the fact that to date, their trainees have all come through word of
mouth from friends and family. They are required to be over 17 years of age and
physically fit, with preference given to girls/women from western Nepal.
When Lucky told me what the
training consists of, it made me wish I could take it as well: "Trainees are
taught conversational English, tourism, trekking, role and responsibilities of
being a trekking guide, basic environmental awareness classes, conservation,
culture, religion, history, geography, human rights, women's rights, first-aid,
AMA, emergency, STD-HIV-AIDS, women's health, leadership, positive thinking,
effective communication and team building."
|Graduates of West Nepal Training (EWN ())|
In a country where the literacy
rate for women is barely 37%, education is a critical issue. Lucky told me that her father used to say, "Education
is very important to everyone. It is our third eye, the eye of wisdom that will
take one very far in life. Personally, quality education is important to girls
and women in Nepal, because only with quality education will they understand
their roles, rights, and responsibilities as good citizens, daughters and
wives. Without it, they will not be able to advance in life and will forever
live in poverty and be at the mercy of their male family members, be it their
father, brothers or husband."
What is your dream for EWN?
"Our organization is focusing on
trekking, rock and ice climbing training and the jobs which are very good and also
leading our girls to mountaineering careers. We want to continue this program
and encourage our young women in the sports area because women never get a
chance to discover their strength, interests and capacity with physical
exercise. If they work hard and their bodies are strong and flexible enough to
play sports then they can choose their own futures."
|A new mountain guide and her clients. (EWN ())|
Are the Himalayas being affected by
climate change? If yes, what can we all do to help slow it down?
"Definitely, climate change is
affecting the Himalayas. Many
organizations and climate scientists have stressed their concern regarding the
glacier meltdown in the high mountains. We can also notice this in our weather
patterns for the last years. Monsoon used to start from June and it would end
by late August and early September. These days, we have rain until October. As
a result of this weather change, there has been a shift in agricultural practices.
"Unfortunately, there is not much
initiative from the government side to take care of the environment, to do
something to mitigate the negative impact of climate change. Awareness is very
minimal. I would say the best thing an average Nepalese can do is to teach
their children about conservation, waste management and the impacts of climate
change so they are informed and responsible towards protecting the environment
they will inherit."
|Pohhara Nepal (EWN ())|
You have met many inspiring people
over your very interesting life time. Who is your hero?
"My father is my hero because he
gave his full support, be it for education or anything in life. He never
differentiated between a girl and a boy and gave us equal opportunities
compared to our brothers to advance in life. We grew up poor, but he never made
us feel that we were a burden to him. He listened to us and trusted us
completely. He always encouraged us to pursue higher education and fulfill our
dreams. He was always there for me and my family in difficult times. Although
illiterate, he was very wise, genuine, active and positive about life. Whatever
I am is because of his greatness and his blessings.
"He was very intelligent and a smart
business man. He came up with fair and good business practises and taught us
the value of personal relationships with clients. Now that I look back, I
learned to be a social entrepreneur from our father. He was a hero not only for
our family but for the entire community. He was well respected and admired by
everyone in our village."
You are the hero of one of the new
team members of The My Hero Project, Wendy Gorton. How do you know Wendy and
how has she empowered you and your organization?
"We know Wendy
Gorton through Cindy Coltman of Women Win. She contacted us expressing her interest in helping us
fundraise among other things. Last year EWN organized "Nepalese Women Annapurna
Expedition" and Wendy helped us get a grant.
She has been supporting EWN from a distance by spreading the word of our
work and connecting us to people like My Hero. We have been communicating with
her regarding our curriculum and website development and Wendy has expressed an
interest to come and teach English during our female trekking guide training
If you had the attention of the
world for 5 minutes what would you do or say?
"I encourage all individuals to
maintain self-discipline, respecting others right to maintain global peace and
harmony. There is so much violence in the name of religion everywhere in the
world and I request to world leaders, religious leaders, and all citizens to
take appropriate action to stop such incidents. Lastly, I would like to request
that the youth of the world, actively engage in their studies and community
service to bring positive change to their own lives as well as others."
Thank you Lucky for being who you
are and for the change you are making in the world.